01 August 2006

Did the New Yorker kill Fidel Castro?

Last week, The New Yorker ran a story about what will happen to Cuba when Fidel Castro dies.
(This is not Castro, by the way; it's Che Guevara, of whom there are thousands of portraits all over Cuba.)

This morning, news comes that he is ill, and has ceded power temporarily to his brother and expected successor, Raul. There is speculation that he might already be dead, but no one really knows.

I went to Cuba in 2002, to an interactive media and art conference. This was during those few open years where such legal trips were not all that difficult to arrange, if you were going for work-related edu- cational reasons, and Cuba was well set-up to host these kinds of conferences. Despite its poverty, it was already a major tourist destination for Europeans and Latin Americans.

The people were wonderful, generously saying that "we like Americans; we don't like your government." We told them that we didn't like our government much right then either.

Several older people spoke to me about the failure of the revolution; they considered themselves to still be revolutionaries. They didn't want free-market capitalism to take over when Fidel died. They thought the trade embargo should be tightened. It was the only way to hurt Castro, they said.

Younger Cubans wouldn't talk about politics. "You can talk about it, but we cannot," the implication was that they could be arrested if the wrong person overheard them.

There is dancing in the streets today in Miami. The U.S. government relies on the exiled Cuban community for guidance on how to handle the transition. Because of course, we are only waiting for Castro to die, the smallest sliver of an opening to go barging in and take over. (Don't forget: Cuba has off-shore oil reserves.) My impression is that the exiles think they will be welcomed back to the island with open arms, and play important roles in bringing the country into the 21st century. I think they are in for a surprise.

When Fidel dies, things will change. The Cuban people deserve change. I only hope they get to say what kind of change it is they want, and that the United States doesn't make them change for the worse.


Blogger Custancia said...

Beautiful pictures. (Too exhausted to think/reply about the politics - maybe another day..)

4:21 PM  

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